This research was done in partnership with Data Morphosis Group based on 2014 data. As a result, women held only 3% of board of director seats among largest companies in Japan. In contrast, the percentage was 36 in Norway.
Bloomberg: Japan Worst, Norway Best for Women on Corporate Boards
Indeed, I was a little surprised that so many women occupied important positions in European countries, when I began to contact with foreign researchers several years ago. On the other hand, there are only few female professors in Japan. I was taught by an old ophthalmologist who was the first female professor in medical schools in Japan. When she was asked for an interview by the media, she rejected to answer in the context as the only female medical professor. It was an obvious result for her to become a professor just because she earned splendid outcomes in her research.
There may be some reasons why women are difficult to participant in Japanese society. Cultural background may contribute to the current situation. However, it cannot explain the difference in countries. It is not only in Japan for women to have been troubled in business.
Some people indicate the shortage of aiding maternity and working mothers. Many employers hesitate to employ women who can be potentially pregnant soon. In addition, single mothers are often seriously discriminated. As a result, women are forced to choose whether working or nurturing.
Traditionally, Japanese society has focused on the role of genders. Thus, husbands have to earn money, and wives should stay home. Husbands who are not working are also disgraced in Japan. However, it is unclear when such a "traditional role of genders" was established, as well as why Japanese are concerned to this ideology.
Nowadays, definitive discrimination for women does not exist in Japan. Nevertheless, women are discriminated implicitly. This invisible barrier is hardly to be overcome. To make change the current situation, some concrete standards such as an affirmative action are necessary, even if not the bast solution.
On the other hand, Japanese women are getting stronger in an individual level as I wrote in the past. We can collaborate with each other for the better future.